Kia ora koutou,
Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery is here to ensure that our students are central in directing their own learning so that your enthusiasm and love of learning is retained. Our sole reason for existence is to provide a place and the resource for our students to learn what they want, the way that they want and in the right place for the learning to occur.
We don’t make you an Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery student, you do.
You can do this by learning through your passions, investing in your interests and undertaking learning that meets your needs. Learning here should not look the same for any two students. It should look the way it needs to for you.
Many of the students and families who take the time to tour our school ask us what could that look like? It’s such a difficult question to answer because it shouldn’t look quite the same for each student. For some students, it looks like choice. Our students have the freedom to select courses and learning programmes that will meet their needs and interests. We try our best to let you work at the level that best reflects you. For example, if you’re a Year 9 and great at science, you could look at taking a NCEA Level 1 course. If you’re the parent of a Year 1 student who loves to explore outside the classroom, you could help make learning happen there every day. Your curriculum is as flexible and tailored as you, your whanau and your learning advisor make it.
For some students it looks like taking no “real” classes at all every day. If you’ve got something that you’re dedicated to, the learning advisors will encourage you to take a risk with your learning and try to do it in the way that best suits you. For example if you wanted to be a musician, we could create a programme that let you play music all day and work towards those individual learning goals. We won’t tell you that you should learn like this. Instead we’ll get to know you and offer guidance that reflects you as a whole person, not just a student.
What else makes us special? We bring your family into the school. I know that many of the students reading this, probably can’t think of anything worse … “more time with my parents!”, I hear you say. But it’s actually a really good thing. Regular meetings between your LA, yourself and your parents, mean that everyone is aware of what your goals and desires are. In every positive respect, you are the only priority at that meeting. No-one will look at you in that meeting as anything except a learner.
We are a high trust community. That feels like a big risk when you’re first starting out as a student or a parent in this community. It’s a difficult process to take ownership of your learning yourself, to wrest some control back from your school. It’s not that one way is better than the other, it’s just that here we expect you to have things you want to do or to learn, and we trust you to do it. As a parent that can look very scary. If your child wants to focus on Drama all day, you may be concerned about the “rest of their education”. Here you need to trust that the plan you helped create will provide a way to ensure your needs are included.
We genuinely want your experience here to be fun. We believe that we have created the best environment in the world to allow students to direct their own learning. And just to be clear – we’re not talking about just our physical environment. What we have are systems, people and beliefs that are supportive and student centred. I know that my learning advisors and my fabulous students will create an environment for you that suits your needs. We do this because we create strong, open and positive relationships throughout the school and community. This is our hallmark and I truly believe that the relationships we build into our practice are unparalleled in any school, and one of the achievements I am most proud of when I talk about our school.
So my challenge to you as a prospective student, is to think about what you want from your schooling. How much of that future are you willing to hand over to a school. How much of that future are you willing to lead. Finally, I want you to remember that we are a school that is willing to adapt to meet your needs … rather than you having to adapt to ours.
Steven Mustor – Founding Director